Gianfranco Zola has heaped praise on Ross Barkley, saying the Chelsea midfielder is on his way to becoming one of the best midfielders that England has to offer.

Barkley did not have the best of beginnings in his west London career following his £15 million move from Everton, making just four appearances, half of them from the bench, under Antonio Conte. A summer of disappointment followed for the midfielder as he failed to make the England plane for the World Cup in Russia but the arrival of Maurizio Sarri at the club has helped the 24-year-old rediscover his form.

Under the ex-Napoli schemer, Barkley has established himself as a regular in Chelsea’s midfield, while also earning himself a recall to the Three Lions squad. On the eve of the crafty midfielder facing his old side Everton at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea assistant coach Zola has reflected on the progress that Barkley has made since a number of injuries, stretching back to his days at Goodison Park, that has hampered his development.

“He had a big injury that stopped him from playing at his best in the last few years. That’s something that has to be said,” the Chelsea No2 opined.

The 24-year-old has been widely considered as the closest thing that England had since Paul Gascoigne in terms of technical ability and Zola, who was an outstanding player in his playing days at Stamford Bridge, believes that the tactical knowledge Barkley had recently gained from Sarri and Co. can see the England international become one of the best midfielders of the country.

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“It’s been important for him the way we play because it’s making him a little bit more complete. We always knew he had ability – physical ability, technical ability. But to play the midfield position, he was lacking a little bit of tactical awareness and defensive awareness,” added Zola.

“He’s doing very well right now and it’s making him a better player. All these things, added to what he already had, is making him one of the best midfielders in the country.”